N. Ireland Politics

DUP leader Arlene Foster says thank you in Irish

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Media captionArlene Foster says thank you in Irish during school visit

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster has said thank you in Irish during a visit to a school.

The former first minister was at Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry on Wednesday when she used the Irish phrase "go raibh maith agat".

She said she had been "uplifted" after meeting Irish language students.

The meeting comes after she said in February that her party would never support legislation to give official status to the language.

Mrs Foster told her party during the Northern Ireland Assembly election campaign that she would not "capitulate" to demands from republicans for an Irish language act.

But speaking during her visit to the school, Mrs Foster said she was on a "journey" when it came to the Irish language and people have "nothing to fear from engaging with another culture".

Her visit had been an opportunity to "sit back and listen", she said, adding that she had an "instructive" morning.

"There's nothing to fear from engaging with another culture, in fact, I think it's a sign of strength if you engage with another culture that's not your own and I have to say I was really uplifted this morning by the girls and what they were able to tell me and what they were able to show me," she said.

"We had a lovely piece of drama, we had a song. We listened to their experiences and it's wonderful."

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Arlene Foster visited the school to speak to people who "genuinely love" the Irish language

During the visit, she met 30 Irish language students and listened to songs and drama performed in Irish.

Hearing the music had "set me up for the rest of the day", she added.

Mrs Foster spent two hours at the school after being invited by the principal Fiona McAlinden, who said she was "delighted" with the way the visit had gone.

"We had listened to Arlene's statement last week when she said she wanted to engage with departments and interested parties regarding Irish and we felt, why not ask her down to our school," she said.

"We're very proud of our Irish department, the achievements of our pupils and we thought we could showcase what we do."

Last week, Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said Mrs Foster's decision to plan a meeting with Irish speakers was a "positive move".

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